Should doctors be allowed to help suffering patients die? In 1990, with his homemade suicide machine, Dr. Jack Kevorkian raised that question. It’s an issue Americans still struggle with today.

A Right to Die?

Producer: Jill Rosenbaum
Editor: Anne Alvergue
Reporter: Olivia Katrandjian

In 1990, Dr. Jack Kevorkian used a homemade suicide machine to help a 54-year-old Alzheimer’s patient, Janet Adkins, end her life. Adkins was the first of many patients Kevorkian helped to die, but her case began a long debate over the ethics of assisted suicide.

Kevorkian and his machine were shocking. But in the 1990s the issue was also being raised by mainstream doctors, like Dr. Timothy Quill, of Rochester NY. He published an article about his experience prescribing life-ending medication to a long time patient. And, in 1994, Oregon voters passed a ballot initiative allowing doctors to prescribe lethal medication to terminal patients. Since then physician-assisted dying has become legal in California, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia.

But for doctors and patients in the rest of the nation, it’s a wrenching issue. The case of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard, who suffered from brain cancer, brought the subject to the fore, and more and more state legislatures are considering the issue.


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Assisted suicide advocates say Trump’s SCOTUS pick is “truly troubling” Quartz
Stigma Around Physician-Assisted Dying Lingers The New York Times
NY Times and ‘Retro Report’ Provide ‘Slow Journalism’ in New Assisted Suicide Doc Video Ink
The History of Physician-Assisted Dying The Kathleen Dunn Show
Aid in Dying Huffington Post
California end-of-life law, inspired by Brittany Maynard, to go into effect USA Today
Canada's Government Introduces Bill To Legalize Physician-Assisted Suicide NPR
Right-to-die drug skyrockets in price before CA law goes into effect ABC 10
Kevorkian archive opens, raising question how it may affect physician-assisted death movement TV Newser
U.S. Right-to-Die Group Fined $30K in Minnesota Woman's Suicide AP
Decades After Kevorkian, U.S. Struggles With Right to Die The Takeaway